Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

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allthingswhitetail
 
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Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby allthingswhitetail » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:05 pm

I realize there have been a lot of talk on forums about deer herd numbers and the ongoing debate. Are the numbers up or down? See the link to my latest blog that outlines some personal observations, my stance, and plans for managing through this issue.

Please also comment on why you feel I am correct or totally wrong. I've been wrong before so it will not hurt my feelings. Maybe you can help me see something I am missing on my property.

Thanks,

Andy

http://www.allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog.html

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Woods Walker
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby Woods Walker » Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:23 pm

All the things you mention on your blog are relevant. It's not one single thing but many factors. A big one is the economy. Fact is, people overall are hunting less. Between gasoline prices and the uncertainty of the future, taking time and spending money for hunting sometimes have to take a back seat.

The nearest place I have to bowhunt is a 130 mile round trip. I get about 11 MPG in my truck....with a tailwind. Do the math! I used to go Saturday and Sunday mornings and still be home for the afternoon to do things with the family or work a bit. No more. I either go all day or I do an overnight (an afternoon hunt and then the morning), but motels cost money too.

I also saw a reference to the Illinois Department Of Transportation that said that the ROADKILL in the state, and especially in the Chicago collar counties was down by almost 20%. Now...that AIN'T good. That has nothing to do with the economy, or Federal lands being closed to hunting because of the shutdown. That's LESS DEER, pure and simple.
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Waste Nothing,

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shaman
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby shaman » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:51 am

First off, I don't think EHD has anything to do with your deer population changes. If they had, you would have seen ( and smelled) carcasses. We had EHD a few years ago in a part of the county less than 10 miles from me. You could smell the devastation from the road most of the summer into fall. However, we were unscathed and the deer on our ridge stayed put.

There are two factors in our part of the world that may be affecting deer populations. First of these is the drought the Greater Ohio Valley had a year ago. I had very few shooting opportunities in 2012, and just a few more in 2013. Normally I would be beating them off with a stick. The drought stunted a lot of growth and the wet cold summer we had this year did not give us the kind of growth recovery we needed. My oak trees had few acorns both years. That sends deer elsewhere in search of food. They just have not been doing what they usually do.

The second factor that is affecting deer population is unreported kills. I think there's plenty of deer, but I think a there are a lot of guys out of work that are filling their freezers in the off-season. That leaves fewer deer in the field for the guys who hunt legally. I hear stories-- nothing I could pin to anyone. Around me, it's just the number of stories that make me think something's up. Your deer herd may be in somebody's freezer.

One other thing, and then I have to get going: Remember that while you are planting your food plots and so on, your neighbors are too. This year I found a lot of dried corn in the stomach contents of all the deer we took. That's new. I have a neighbor that has done supplemental feeding for years, but I've never seen the effects before.

If you have a neighbor that has planted a better plot, or put in a field of soybeans or corn that you don't know about, that might be the cause of why you are not seeing your deer.

EDIT: Angus' school is on a 1 hour delay, so I've got some more time.
I've been on the same property since 2001. I've seen drought, Blue Tongue, ice storms, a hurricane, a tornado, poaching-- the works. Of all of them, I'd say poaching is the worst. Even then, it only takes a couple of years for things to even back out. The deer seem to ebb and flow on my place.

Everyone is big on harvesting does right now. In Zone 1 in KY, where I am, you can take as many as you want. I take a few every year off my place, but I try to keep the core doe groups intact. When I don't see the herds of 5+ , I start thinking about easing off. However, remember that your neighbors may have no such qualms.
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Sailfish
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby Sailfish » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:55 am

shaman wrote: Of all of them, I'd say poaching is the worst. Even then, it only takes a couple of years for things to even back out.


I noticed a HUGE change this year on my lease.
Wasn't catching many bucks on camera, does seemed to be a tad less in numbers (say 30% lower).

Thought it may be my abilities that were poor (still could be :mrgreen: ), but I was talking to the landowner and he let a couple "friends" hunt last year on the property(different area than mine however). He was hearing shots going off, alot of shots, many days, and these guys always told him it wasn't them, they didn't see anything, etc.
We have a no doe rule and 6pt minimum on the land, and he's pretty sure they were taking anything and everything.

Point is, just one season of these guys in the area (2000 acres) it appears to have had that much an affect and technically they were 'legally' doing it. Imagine poachers all over. With the economy as mentioned, folks will do whatever they can to get food. Or a rack, whatever. Combine your regular poachers, and now most likley the addtional ones..............

I'm certain Shaman is spot on.
"Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see farther."

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rthomas4
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby rthomas4 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:48 pm

On my property the herd has grown, and this season I've concentrated on killing does and fawns and left most of the bucks alone. No one hunts this property but me, and occasionally my boy, my brother and his son; but I do have problems with poachers. Also, I plant an average of 5 or 6 food plots that equal about 2 1/2 acres on the approximately 75 acres I have to manage. No one near me plants food plots; but there is a small amount of agricultural planting within a 10 mile radius. I also bait with corn and sweet feed, so my trail cam pictures always show plenty of does, fawns, and bucks of various age classes.

If the highway kills in this area of the state are any indicator, the deer population has remained pretty stable now for the last 4 or 5 years, even with the increased coyote predation across the state. Also, the club where we run hounds doesn't seem to have any fewer deer, it's just that the floods we had in the late summer and early fall dictated changes in the travel routes and patterns of the deer. We always manage to jump deer, but just can't seem to cover their escape routes with the number of guys we normally have on each hunt. Also, the deer have learned our patterns and where we place our standers so instead of running like they used to, now they go in different directions......many of which are inaccessible due to road washouts and beaver ponds that block our access,

SC has never had an incident of EHD or Blue Tongue, even with the amount of baiting that is done in the state, and the DNR survey and studies done have shown that coyote predation has had some negative impact on certain areas of the state, yet other areas have hired professional hunters to come in and shoot deer with lights at night to help curb the herds. Overall, I'd have to say our state wide herd has remained about the same, based on personal observation and contact with various other hunters, and forest industry people I know. The state DNR may claim differently, but their studies have been conducted on the Savannah River Nuclear Site, where the hunting is highly regulated and no public predator hunting is allowed.
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kellory
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby kellory » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:31 pm

I know of four different hunting parties that got skunked. our family hunt had 6 hunters over 5 days. no dear taken. dear sightings Are way down. bad enough I bought some leg hold traps for coyotes. still working on getting them ready.
so far hunting this year has been a bust.
The only real difference between a good tracker and a bad tracker is observation. All the same data is present for both. The rest is understanding what you are seeing.

loneranger
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby loneranger » Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:56 am

There is the constant conflict between those that want more deer-HUNTERS- and those that want less deer-Insurance Companies,Farmers,Farm Bureau's,Suburbanites,City dwellers. Who do you think Legislators listen most to? Most states I have resided in tend the same way. Liberal doe permits and seasons. Hunters have some power in their hands. We don't have to buy permits and we don't have to shoot!

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rthomas4
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby rthomas4 » Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:49 am

Thankfully, in SC, our DNR can't set the rules and regs without legislative approval. We hunters recently managed to get the legislature to support what we wanted and they went against the DNR and didn't approve the changes proposed. We still haven't won the war, since the out of state money is being poured into the debate and DNR is still fighting to change our rules regarding limits and dog hunting, so we shall continue to fight.
NRA LM, NAHC LM, Buckmasters LM, The Second Amendment Foundation, GOA, NAGR, Palmetto Gun Rights, QDMA, DU, NWTF, ASAdisabled sportsmens' alliance, EDH, and Proud SC redneck REBEL for life.

Bowriter
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby Bowriter » Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:15 pm

As a student of deer for going on six decades and a graduate wildlife biologist with a year or so of whitetail management under my belt, I might be able to shed some light on this subject. But first a word of warning. You may not like what I am going to say.

First, it is pretty much common knowledge that deer numbers fluctuate due to various factors. Among them are: Disease, hunter pressure, habitat changes and low fawn recruitment due to predation. So that is a given. Lets us first talk about disease, namely EHD.

EHD has been jokingly referred to by biologists as Mother Nature's cleaning tool. What is meant by that is that when there is an EHD outbreak, within five years, you have one of the healthiest deer herds around. EHD is a simple disease that is mostly prevalent in dry years when animals congregate at water holes. That is where the gnats also gather. It can be mild or disatrous. In almost any out break of size, carcasses are readily visble.

Hunter pressure should also be readily noticeable. If hunters are killing too many deer, you should know it. Obviously, on private land, this can be contained. BUT...before you start containing it, be sure of your herd numbers. DO NOT rely on hunter sightings, even your own. What you see is seldom what is really there. Cameras are almost as faulty at estimating population. One of the hardest things to get hunters to understand is the value of hard data, not "I am just not seeing...". Link to that, hunters are historically terrible wildlife managers. Depending on what your state allows, do some nocturnal surveys with thermal imaging if possible, surveying the same areas multiple times. That might give you a better idea of what you have.

Now let's talk about predation as it applies to a deer herd. Got lots of coyotes? If so, you might lose some fawns-probably about the same number you lose to mowing machines. Is that a serious facet for you? Only you know. I have a lot of coyotes and no problem with fawn recruitment. That may not be true for you.

Now...the biggie. How has the habitat near you changed? Has housing increased? Is land being cleared? In short, not just at your house or across the road at the neighbor's but over about a three square mile area, has there been a drastic change in habitat? If so, you may have found your culprit. You may need to reevaluate your carrying capacity. You may have exactly the number of deer you need.

Are you killing too many does? It is certainly possible depending on your state's policies. You may not believe it but where I live, the limit is three does per day for over 100 days. Noone comes even close. Quite often a liberal doe limit is not what it seems to be.Everything must be applied specifically to where you hunt, not on a state or national basis and here is why.

Deer cannot be micromanaged on a statewide basis. It is just too costly and no state has the manpower to do it. In some areas, there are too many deer. In some not enough. It is like a pan half full of BBs. Assume that is exactly the number of BBs you want in the pan. Now, tilt the pan. You still have exactly the right number of BBs but they are not evenly spread. That is what professional game biologists deal with on a regular basis.

I would venture to bet that within a year or so, your deer will "balance" out again. Ole Ma Nature is good at that.

I am now mostly retired, managing on one small piece of ground, less than 2,000 acres. Yet, I still face some of the same problems I had with a 20,000-acre place. If you really want to complicate things, try providing hunters with all five year old bucks and one behnd every tree.

I'm done now. :roll:

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Woods Walker
 
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Re: Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading

Postby Woods Walker » Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:41 pm

Bowriter: Good post! Lot's of good points and information, your point on habitat particulary. Too few hunters (and many landowners) don't understand what their carrying capacity is and at what stage of habitat succession their ground is at. If you don't know this there's NO WAY you can accurately assess what and how much habitat improvement you can do...if any.

I have a degree in Range Management from UW (and that AIN'T Wisconsin!! :mrgreen: ) and I worked for the USDA for a while in the old Soil Conservation Service in that capacity and this was a constant challange that I faced when dealing with landowners.

Just 'cause you've got a lot of trees doesn't mean you will have a lot of deer, and just because your woods (which looks the same to you...but it isn't...) held a lot of deer 10 years ago doesn't necessarily mean that it will hold them for all time. Natural environments are in a constant, albeit subtle, state of change.
Hunt Hard,

Kill Swiftly,

Waste Nothing,

Offer No Apologies.....

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